Draft horse breeders have often been ridiculed for their use of Scotch Bottom shoes, and for the manner in which successful heavy horsemen trim their horses' feet. Farriers in growing number state, popular shoeing practices can create unsoundness. Chronic lameness, contracted heels, navicular disease, etc., purportedly, can be a consequence of popular shoeing.
Heavy horsemen traditionally kept the front toes of their draft horses squared. Some depth of horn was left on the front heels. This encouraged the front feet to spread. Front feet trimmed otherwise, like those that are neglected, become pointed at the toes and narrow at the heel.
Hind feet are trimmed close on the inside, leaving greater depth of heel on the outside. This encourages the hocks to be positioned close, in line with the skeletal structure above. Given the extra width of a draft horse, this is important. If a draft horse is not trimmed in this manner, the horn of the hoof tends to grow higher on the inside. This will cause a draft horse to travel ever wider behind.
The proper use of Scotch Bottom shoes encourages growth rather than contraction of a horse’s heels. Hind shoes wafer thin on the inside encourage the proper configuration of the hind legs. Most young draft horses properly trimmed and correctly shod have underpinning of a correct configuration.
A century past, when draft horses were a universal source of power on the streets, such husbandry was common. Only those horses drawing exceptionally heavy loads, where a firm grip on the ground was essential, had their feet trimmed right down. Out of necessity these horses, like pulling horses today, wore a close-fitting shoe. The use of corks was common. While essential given the circumstances, such shoes did not ensure the proper health of a horse’s feet.
While extreme shoeing with Scotch Bottom shoes is not recommended, draft horse breeders should be encouraged by the public’s growing change of attitude. At least this is how I see it.